PHOENIX — It was the perfect start to a day, breakfast with the granddaughter twins, one of them even letting me sit next to her.
The other is apparently still not buying my “I love UCLA” routine.
Then it was off to Target to spoil them, one getting a Barbie and the other a talking baby. They chose the most expensive toys, so there’s no doubt they’re my daughter’s children.
Now as they stood there posing for a picture with G.P., gifts in hands, a big smile from the one who likes me and a smirk from the other, it was a feeling of complete joy.
There’s no way the Dodgers were going to ruin this day.
Before leaving for the ballpark, I caught the HBO special on the Yankees/Diamondbacks World Series that took place a few weeks after 9/11.
A young girl, whose father was captain of a plane a terrorist flew into one of the towers, wrote to Derek Jeter and wanted to meet him.
She got her chance, a nice TV reminder athletes mean so much to people sometimes and do the right thing.
The Yankees would lose the Series in Arizona, but they won three uplifting games in New York, twice tying the score with two outs in the ninth inning.
What a feeling watching that, and it has been 11 years.
It seemed like an impossible task, but the Yankees brought so much joy to those people.
But shouldn’t that be the mission of every sports team, bringing joy to their fans?
It seems so basic, but the Dodgers have been failures. They are trying to do a better job making players available for autographs, but inside the clubhouse there’s no joy.
I thought I’d try to change things, going to the clubhouse with the intent of inspiring — only to be told to leave.
First person I see is pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, so I ask him if he has joy in his heart.
“Every day,” he says, which is impressive, knowing Joe Blanton pitches every five days.
I move on to the next guy.
“How about you, you don’t look joyful.”
“This is my game face,” he says.
By the way, I say, “Who are you?”
“Matt,” he says, and so that’s who Matt Guerrier is. Funny the things you learn when spreading good cheer.
Luis Cruz is beaming, the joy just oozing from him as he shows me a picture of his 6-month-old son and his first haircut.
“I couldn’t feel any better,” Cruz gushes, and I’m not surprised later when Cruz gets two hits and loses a home run on a great catch.
I don’t see Adrian Gonzalez, but already know there’s no joy to his game, or it’s well-hidden. I’m not surprised later when he takes a called third strike to end the game with the tying run on second.
I check with Manager Don Mattingly.
“For me personally, I got a lot of joy out of seeing you today,” he says, promising if I can get the Dodgers to win the next 21 games he’ll get me on the team’s payroll. “Or pay you out of my own pocket.”
So far so good.
I talk to Hanley Ramirez, who says, “Hey, my man.”
“I’m just trying to get everyone going,” I tell Ramirez, “Because nothing else is working.”
That’s when someone yells, “Zip it up.”
Now I’m an old man, and every once in a while I forget.
But the voice is telling the team’s PR guy to “Get that clown out of here,” so I know Matt Treanor is talking about me.
“What’s your problem?” says Treanor, and I’m thinking, I’m not the one who hasn’t had a hit since July 26.
“Are you trying to tell me you have no joy in your heart?” I say to Treanor, never for a second thinking I would talk to a Treanor unless it was the athlete in the family.
“Don’t come in here causing problems about our attitude,” says Treanor, and folks wonder why I don’t spread good cheer more often.
I tell him the team is dead, but I’m here to revive it and remind them how important joy is to what they do.
“Get out of here,” says Treanor, a second later saying, “Is there anything else you want to talk about?” Hello, anyone home?
“Sure, but you don’t seem in the talking mood,” I say, and Treanor says, “I am now.”
Then he gets in my face and we’re belly to belly because mine is so big.
“What’s wrong with this team?” I ask.
“No comment,” says Treanor, and the whole team is watching because it beats taking batting practice knowing they’re not going to score anyway.
“Are you playing tonight?” I ask, curious if the Dodgers have opted to surrender.
He’s not, and credit to his teammates for not cheering.
He’s getting really upset, and I’m the one who has been stopped from spreading joy. He says it’s unbelievable the local paper isn’t supporting the team and I never write anything positive.
I mention Cruz, Dee Gordon, Matt Kemp, Ramirez and never get to the Clippers, Vernon Wells and a wonderful USC fan with ALS who is more determined than any of these guys.
“I don’t think you need to come at Hanley like that,” snaps Treanor.
You mean, my man?
He tells me to meet him outside. I have a pass to get back in but I worry he might not. He says, “In the dugout.”
I agree, but need to chat with Mark Ellis. Ellis says he has joy, while Treanor interrupts to call me names that can’t be printed here.
In the dugout, Treanor swears a lot, puts a finger in my face and when a team official suggests he apologize, Treanor goes on an obscenity-filled rant.
I just pull out my Blackberry and take a look at the picture of the twins holding their gifts.
As for the joyless Dodgers, they fall flat again.